a·while (ə-wīl, -hwīl)
For a short time.
Usage Note: The adverb awhile and the noun phrase a while can lead to confusion because they sound the same and the noun phrase can function like an adverb. Noun phrases denoting time periods can often be used as adverbs, as one day in We'll move to Seattle one day. The same is true for a while. Thus Let's stop and rest a while is correct, since a while is here equivalent to "one day" in the previous phrase. Similarly, Let's stop and rest awhile is correct, where awhile functions as an adverb with a similar function to phrases like for an hour. · Care should be taken with prepositional phrases. Only a while can follow a preposition in a prepositional phrase, since only noun phrases can be the objects of prepositions. Thus I'll stay for a while is acceptable, but not I'll stay for awhile. (Note that if the preposition is dropped, both I'll stay a while and I'll stay awhile are acceptable, since the noun phrase a while can be used adverbially.)
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.
American Heritage Dictionary Products
The American Heritage Dictionary, 5th Edition
The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms
The American Heritage Roget's Thesaurus
Curious George's Dictionary
The American Heritage Children's Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots
The American Heritage Student Grammar Dictionary
The American Heritage Desk Dictionary + Thesaurus
The American Heritage Science Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Business Terms
The American Heritage Student Dictionary
The American Heritage Essential Student Thesaurus